Grandmothers in Multigenerational Households: Challenges and Rewards -- Suzanne Stephenson McKann
This interpretive phenomenological study investigated the experience of grandmothers who provide for their adult children and grandchildren in the grandmother’s home. The importance of this study relates to understanding the meanings of the grandmother experience in the context of this multigenerational setting. By gaining understandings of this phenomenon, clinicians and researchers can utilize the findings to develop meaningful supports designed to sustain grandmothers in multigenerational households. Aligned with the theoretical and empirical research, grandmothers in this study described an ebb and flow over time of negative, positive, and ambivalent feelings about their experience that ultimately provided meaning to their lives. Challenges to the grandmother experience were (a) economic pressures, (b) family problems, (c) health issues, and (d) loss. The rewards of the grandmother experience were enhanced by (a) family solidarity, (b) strength from their faith, (c) social connections, (d) control of household rules, (e) caregiving, and (f) child advocacy. When faced with problems, grandmothers in this study emerged as generous, resilient, and stable. Understandings gained from this study suggested grandmothers provided powerful resources that contributed to the stability of multigenerational living. Grandmothers’ interventions buffered family members from overwhelming psychological, physical, financial, and social problems. Without grandmothers’ support, these problems could have converged to precipitate extreme negative consequences for family members (Mirsky & Duncan, 2004).
Key Words: Grandmothers; Multigenerational Households; Resilience; Well-Being; Child Advocacy; Family Solidarity; Ambivalence; Adaptability